Commentary: Online ticketing has ruined the fan experience

Tom Hawking,, 5/28/13

Buying tickets used to be entirely dependent on your fanaticism and tolerance for standing in line. This wasn't ideal, but at least it meant you knew exactly what you needed to do to get tickets, and stood a decent chance of getting them if you were prepared to do so. The advent of Internet ticketing was meant to make life easier for everyone, and in some respects, it has -- while sitting and frantically refreshing a website is tedious, it's objectively better than risking hypothermia. In general, though, online ticketing has actually made it pretty much impossible to be sure you'll get tickets at all, and it also often means that the best seats are out of the reach of genuine fans. In the past your competition for tickets was, well, other fans. These days your competition is rich people with American Express cards, LiveNation members, ticket agents, and God knows who else. And when you actually do log onto Ticketmaster when tickets go on sale, you're also up against another, more pernicious problem: scalping bots. The scale of the problem is pretty depressing -- The New York Times reported "bots have been used to buy more than 60% of the most desirable tickets for some shows." You might think that Ticketmaster would want to do everything they can to keep bots off their site -- especially as Ticketmaster themselves have a sideline in reselling tickets via their TicketsNow. But it appears they couldn't care less -- instead of blocking bots, they just kick the bots they detect to the back of their online queue. [And] it doesn't matter if you're [using] Ticketmaster, AEG, Ticketfly or whoever else -- it's virtually impossible to bypass some sort of ticketing service if you want to purchase tickets in advance of an event, with all the headaches and extra fees that such "services" bring. [Moreover, Ticketmaster's] market share gives it little incentive to change, and as a consumer, the experience offered by its competitors isn't exactly much better. There's the occasional promising new start-up, but on the whole, in the [last] 15 years, it's gotten exponentially more difficult and more expensive to get hold of tickets. And, sadly, it doesn't appear that things are going to get better any time soon.


Ticketmaster settles lawsuit over online rewards program with no rewards

Associated Press, 5/16/13

Ticketmaster has agreed to settle claims for up to $23 million over a lawsuit affecting more than a million people who, after buying a ticket online, were enrolled in a rewards program that cost $9 a month but never gave them any benefits. Each customer signed up for the rewards program after buying [on] between September 2004 and June 2009. The plaintiffs argued that they didn't know about the fees, which were charged to the credit or debit card used to buy the ticket. Gutride said this kind of aggressive marketing was common on the Internet around that time. "People have gotten more savvy about these things. This was early on. That's why so many people were duped." Of the people who enrolled in the program, 93% didn't redeem any of the online coupons for which they were charged. The defendants said the Entertainment Rewards program fully disclosed the terms and conditions, including the monthly fee, and said there was no basis for a class action suit. The original lawsuit dates back to 2007. Under the settlement, the defendants don't acknowledge any wrongdoing. Ticketmaster said "We are looking forward to putting this case...behind us so we can resume our focus on delivering the best possible ticket buying experience for fans," it said. The affected customers paid about $85 million, or $75.89 each, for the program. It took the average person about eight months to cancel the monthly payments.


Commentary: Dynamic pricing might help limit online ticket resale

Michael Rushton, blog For What It's Worth, 5/19/13

The Observer reports that scalpers are making a killing on tickets for the Proms: "One unofficial online site is offering seats for the Doctor Who-themed Prom on 14 July for 500, compared with the official flat-rate price of 12. It is not just fans of the Proms who will be disappointed this summer. Many events in the coming months have already sold out -- with the only tickets available on websites fetching way above face value." Mark-ups like this have always presented a bit of a puzzle. There are only so many seats available. If the initial ticket price is kept low, and resale is effectively put to a stop (which can be done, but at some cost), then tickets are allocated according to who first joined the queue. If the price is set at the maximum price that would still generate a sell-out, or if ticket resale is fully allowed, then in the end tickets are allocated according to who is willing to pay the most. The same number of people attend in each case, but it is a different group of people. So why do producers set a [lower] price that virtually invites ticket resale? One [possibility] is they do not mind having tickets sold at a low price and allocated by queue - it allows at least some people in who have limited means. A second is suggested by Pascal Courty in the Journal of Economic Perspectives: that scalpers are a way to facilitate the fact that buyers differ in when they want to buy tickets - lower income diehards who queue early, and higher income busy professionals who wait until the last minute to see if they will have the time to attend, and provide the demand for scalpers tickets (after all, Doctor Who tickets are only being sold at 500 because someone is expected to be willing to buy them at that price). The use of dynamic pricing by concert producers might limit the role of ticket resale to some degree, but, for various reasons, dynamic pricing has not caught on so much in the arts.


How tablets & smartphones affect fans' purchasing behavior

Ray Waddell,, 5/16/13

Live music fans are embracing mobile at a remarkable pace. According to Live Nation, 14% of Ticketmaster sales in North America were purchased on mobile platforms in 2012, double the number that did so in the previous 12 months. In March, Live Nation for the first time sold more than 1 million tickets worldwide on mobile platforms, a trend the company expects to accelerate. Live Nation COO Joe Bechtold expects the convenience of mobile ticketing to lead to further increases in ticket sales: "We know from early data that a traditional e-mail [blast] converts online at 10%-15%. When you start sending out mobile alerts, they're converting somewhere in the 20%-30% range, because you're delivering a content-rich message with immediacy." The holy trinity of mobile platforms as they relate to live music is discovery, purchase and access. Live Nation research indicates that more than two-thirds of fans use their smartphones to search for events, while 59% are interested in not only buying tickets on their smartphones but also using an e-ticket on their device, and 47% would buy concessions the same way. And it's not just young fans buying tickets on mobile platforms. "We sold out a Paul McCartney show in Canada on a mobile presale," Bechtold said. "Young and old, the consumer looks at it as an efficient channel. We love it, because we get to take all of the same economics to that channel, and we get to start directly communicating with use of mobile alerts and bringing email to live conversion on your mobile phone. We think it will be a big part of the future of how we increase our conversion rate."


Commentary: New mobile app could shake up already-volatile ticket market

Eve Green,, 5/17/13

Mobile ticketing applications such as StubNut are becoming increasingly popular ,and it is estimated that, by 2015, one in every eight mobile users will either have a ticket delivered to their phone or buy a ticket using their phone. This compares with approximately 1 in 20 people now. The move from paper to digital tickets is nothing new; since it was first introduced by Ticketmaster it has been a hot topic for debate. However there is a smartphone app aiming to take e-tickets to a whole other level, and it has the potential to shake up the already volatile secondary ticket market. TicketFire launched in January. The application, currently only available on iOS, allows ticket holders to scan their paper event ticket, and then share, sell or transfer those tickets to other people also using the app. It differs from current ticketing applications as it also allows ticket holders to sell and buy tickets, even once an event has already started. TicketFire is classified as a 'ticket exchange' and they don't regulate the price at which people resell their tickets for, leaving the door wide open to scalpers. Scalpers and ticket brokers take in more than $1.5 billion a year reselling concert tickets (USA Today, 2012). Applications such as TicketFire are creating new, easier ways for fraudsters to operate. Because consumers scan their tickets using the app they will be left with the paper copy, meaning that it could be saved and used or sold, thus making it easy for fraud to take place.

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